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Frequently Asked Questions about Legal Issues

Are people with AIDS considered handicapped?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The ADA extends federal protection against discrimination for persons with disabilities in the private workplace and in places of public accommodation. The Act considers any form of HIV disease to be a disability covered under the law.

For more information, you may find it helpful to contact:

  • ADA Education Project
    c/o ACLU AIDS Project
    132 W. 43rd Street
    New York, New York 10036


  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    National Office
    1801 L. Street NW
    Washington, DC 20507


  • President's Commission on Employment of
    People with Disabilities
    1331 F. Street NW
    Washington, DC 20004-1107
    (202) 376-6200


What are the laws regarding immigration and HIV/AIDS?

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) requires HIV antibody testing as part of the medical examination required for all non-immigrants over the age of 15 years who apply for visas. Non-immigrants applying for permanent residence who test HIV-positive are considered "excludable and deportable."

Although travelers applying for a non-immigrant visa (temporary stay) are not required to take a medical exam, HIV antibody testing may be required at the port of entry if there is reason to believe an individual is infected (e.g., the presence of medication such as zidovudine [AZT]). Non-immigrants infected with HIV who wish to visit the United States may apply for a 30-day waiver to see relatives, conduct business, attend conferences, or seek medical treatment.

For additional information about HIV/AIDS and immigration, you may wish to contact:

  • National Immigration Project
    National Association of People With AIDS
    1413 K Street, NW, 7th Floor
    Washington, DC 20005-3476
    (202) 898-0414

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule on January 23, 1991, removing AIDS from the list of diseases for which infected non-immigrants may be excluded from the United States. The new list took effect on June 1, 1991. Elimination of sexually transmitted diseases was proposed because they are not transmitted by casual contact, through the air, or from food or water, nor will an infected person in a common or public setting place another person inadvertently at risk.

If you have any further questions about this procedure, please write to:

  • Immigration and Naturalization Service
    425 I Street Northwest
    Washington, DC 20536
    (202) 514-4316

What are the laws regarding knowingly infecting someone with HIV?

In some states, persons who are aware of their infection but who knowingly put their sex partners at risk or intentionally attempt to infect someone are subject to criminal penalties.

For more information regarding the laws in your state, you may wish to contact your state health department.

What are the laws regarding privacy for persons with HIV?

Virtually every state has passed laws dealing directly with HIV or AIDS. These states have enacted statutes, regulations, or policies that protect HIV-related information either directly or indirectly. Laws regarding obtaining HIV/AIDS information, how it is protected, and under what circumstances confidential medical information is releasable varies among states.

For more information regarding the laws in your state, you may wish to contact your state health department.